TTFT: Past Balls

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 28th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Ready to Ball?

The time is near…everyone is useless at work at this point. I’m heading back East tonight, to to get prepared for what is sure to be an extravaganza, let’s take a look at some highlights from past Balls. Enjoy the music as you prepare for Watkins Glen International and Super Ball IX.

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2001” 8.16.98 III

A super-sized version filled with chunky, Summer ’98 grooves.

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Wolfman’s -> Simple” 8.16.97 II

One of so many outstanding musical memories from The Great Went.

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Piper” 7.18.99 III

The Clifford Ball

This scorching centerpiece of Oswego’s final set is among “Piper’s” elite versions.

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Harry Hood” 8.16.96 III

The first the line of many glorious festival “Hoods.” This one , however, just may be the best.

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Tweezer -> Have Mercy” 7.17.99 II

The sunset suite on Osewgo’s opening night.

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Mike’s Song” 12.30.99 III

The Great Went

The apocalyptic version from Big Cypress’s opening night just released on SBD by Kevin Shapiro on SBD; the last “Mike’s Song” of the 1900’s.

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Ghost” 8.16.98 II

This version that forsehadowed the ambient interplay of Fall ’98 is a personal favorite.

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Waves” IT 8.2.03 II

A relic of an era when the band willingly immersed themselves in abstract psychedelic jams.

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FROM PHISH.COM: The Bunny on Jam On

“The Bunny is back and will be broadcast on SIRIUS XM’s Jam_On channel. The Bunny (and Sirius XM) will be broadcasting not just Phish sets, but the full mix of eclectic music, festival reports, archival Phish audio and much much more. In addition, for those driving in to the festival without satellite radio, The Bunny will be rocking it old school on WRCE 1490 AM as well.”

The Bunny will begin broadcasting on WRCE at 8 AM on Thursday, June 30 through 8 AM on Monday, July 4. Sirius XM will join us at Thursday at 3 PM and broadcast all the way through Monday morning.”

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FROM PHISH.NET:

Beyond the ‘Boards: The Taping Tradition Lives On

One can’t begin to discuss even the cursory history of Phish without mentioning the role of tapers and the taping community. After every show and tour, hundreds of padded envelopes criss-crossed the country and helped spread the gospel of Phish in a fashion similar to the way bits & bytes travel the Internet now. From one to one trades, to complex trading trees, to blanks & postage offers, to taping parties, Phish tapes were constantly circulating. At the root of every chain and the beginning of every trade, was a taper who selflessly put recording the shows above all else…Read on here!

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A Small Ball?

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on June 26th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

"Thunder Road" - Unofficial Print (J.Lamb)

Over the weekend, some surprising information leaked about the ticket sales for this weekend’s Super Ball IX—there haven’t been many! The rumored number of pre-sold tickets has hovered around 25,000, a number that even with 10,000 walk-ups, will be far cry from the band’s northeast extravaganzas of lore. The Clifford Ball hosted 70,000, while the The Great Went brought 75,000 fans to Limestone, Maine. 60,000 trekked north for Lemonwheel and 65,000 attended Camp Oswego. Big Cypress drew 85,000 to the Everglades, while IT and Coventry each came in around 60,000. Sure this isn’t the late-‘90s and Phish’s fan base is older, but, shit, even Indio—on the west coast—drew 40,000! So with the smallest Phish festival in history likely about to go down at Watkins Glen International, what the heck went wrong?

6.12.11 (G.Lucas)

Business-wise, Super Ball seems like a clear case of over-saturation. Putting the festival so close—both in time and physical space—to Bethel and Darien’s leg one shows (not to mention 15 other east coast affairs) the driving need for people to be at Super Ball doesn’t seem to be there. With plenty of more Phish on the horizon this summer, especially for west coasters, there is little incentive for many fans to travel far away for a holiday festival when Phish will soon come to them. After just feeding their core fan base a month of stellar shows and about to visit the west in August, it seems like only the most passionate and local Phish fans (who had budgeted this weekend into their summer) will be attending Super Ball—a factor that could contribute to a dreamlike vibe. Tack on a late announcement for an event on July 4th weekend—a summer holiday that often entails family commitments—and you’ve got the recipe for the most intimate Phish fest to date.

Super Ball IX

For fans, this number will likely mean reduced traffic, reduced stress, and a generally easier time navigating the festival grounds. The multi-mile walks from campgrounds to the concert field will shrink with no need to push people so far from the central part of town. But what will be the band’s reaction? Will they be disgruntled by a less-than-full concert field? Phish has always been pretty good at going with the flow, and if I had to make a guess, any sort of attendance count won’t change their musical output. In fact, many fans have sited “The Dark Side Axiom,” theorizing that Phish will throw down harder with fewer people there. But with many thousand more set to tune in via Sirius radio (to be announced soon) a la Festival 8, who knows the real answer?

I suspect the weekend will be phenomenal—unaffected by any shortage of the masses—and blossom into an intimate and memorable party for 35,000 people. The numbers are meaningless to us, if not a bit fascinating, because when the first notes bellow out of those speaker towers, the last thought on any of our mind’s will be the number of people in attendance. Once you and Phish and endless dance space converge, little else tends to matter.

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Pre-Ball Odds and Ends

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on June 25th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

6.10.11 (G.Lucas)

Trey In Rolling Stone: In a short but candid interview published in Rolling Stone yesterday, Trey mentioned that Phish will be working on a new album this winter, 2012 will be light on touring, and that he is considering covering Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” Read the whole piece here!

An interesting excerpt from Trey on the history of Phish festivals:

The festivals grew organically out of our early scene in Vermont. We were always a party band and we used to play outside a lot. People always seemed to show up. I remember a big pig roast at our friend Ian’s farm one summer – everyone came and slept in the field. We did a gig at our friend Amy’s farm in Maine and suddenly it was 5,000 people. Then we went to Plattsburgh and it was 50,000. You have to keep in mind, though, that there were no festivals to speak of when Phish was doing those early ones. I remember hearing about Burning Man, but even that was just getting going in the Nineties. Now there are tons, but it all felt very cutting edge in the mid-Nineties. There was no playbook. We were making it up as we went along.

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Live Bait Vol. 5

Live Bait Volume 5: With Super Ball IX just around the corner, Phish archivist, Kevin Shapiro, dropped yet another in the ongoing series of free (MP3) Live Bait download compilations. This time, Kevin featured selections exclusively from Phish “festivals” dating all the way back to 1989. Totaling 34 tracks, this is the most extensive Live Bait to date. Download the selections here!

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Phish Thoughts Book Contest #2 Results: This time around, there was much more parity amongst the top contenders, with only two points separating 13 entries. But the only person to score 7 points was Dave Lieben! Congrats, Dave, your prognostication skills have won you a free, signed copy of Phish Thoughts: The Book! Contest #3 is now open. Make your picks for the second leg of Summer Tour, including Colorado. Get your entries in by June 21st to qualify for a free, signed copy of Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts: An Anthology By a Fan For the Fans! Below are the tight results of contest #2.

7 – Dave Lieben

6 – Shane Collins, Peter Jans, Lauren

5- Matty Tiscornia, Proj Mersch, Michael Pearlman, Matt Colna, Martin Foster, Kimchi McGee, J.R. Haun, Ed Mello, Don Kane

 

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The Dawn of A New Era

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 22nd, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Merriweather - (Brian Adams)

Though I’m still largely in and out of post-tour sleepsville, I figure I’d get some thoughts up on this past tour. I’ve only scratched the surface of re-listening to the shows, but June was—without question—the most impressive tour since the band returned in 2009. Despite a tight song rotation, the band’s communication skills are clearly at the top of their game, and when Phish is now at their best, their music is as good as it has ever been. Jaded vets will always glorify their own touring days, but anyone with two ears and an open heart can hear the excellence that Phish embodies once again.

Merriweather (B.Ferguson)

Spinning through some of June’s highlights last night, I was floored by the virtuosity of the band’s current listening skills. The quickness with which Trey picked up on Page’s ideas and expounded on them was staggering—in so many jams. And then Mike would respond with an eclectic counter thought in no more than a nanosecond. These three-part conversations that underlined Phish’s best playing all tour illustrates a band matured and focused on equitable jamming, the hallmark of improvisational success. Fishman’s melodic sensibility and his ability to respond to Trey and Mike at once, provided the fourth part of these musical puzzles that dazzled crowds throughout the month. Within structured or open jamming, these four-part exchanges blossomed with dynamic vitality, a crucial facet of their game that has now fully returned.

With all of their individual skillsets at a 3.0 high, the band is now executing at a new level of proficiency—a level that allows for subconscious creativity of the likes we hadn’t seen this era. The only question that arose each night was how safe the band would play, and this decision came down to one person and one person only, Trey Anastasio. With the guitarist’s mood and patience, so went the contour of every show. When Trey lacked focus or seemed to be overthinking things, shows turned into choppy affairs with little cohesion as Big Red often favored more songs over musical flow. But on the nights when Trey came out with his patience of old—a la Bethel night two, Detroit, Charlotte or Portsmouth—sublime, timeless music resulted.

To be honest, Trey almost seemed like two different people this tour when comparing how he directed various shows. On some nights he had his own agenda, and regardless of what the band was musically immersed in doing, he asserted his ideas at awkward times with no context whatsoever. (See PNC’s “Ghost > Numberline” or Alpharetta’s “Tweezer > Julius for perfect examples.)  But on other nights, he allowed each and every jam to flow to its natural conclusion, playing with a wholly collaborative nature and crafting music that can stand up to any era. It’s quite the perplexing issue that has will never truly be answered, but we can only hope that as the summer moves on, Trey embodies his patient and selfless persona more often than the restless and intrusive front man he has often resembled.

Walnut Creek - Raleigh (John Crouch)

But when Trey was in it to win it—on the same page as the rest of his band members rather than swimming upstream—the music transformed into magic. The oustanding jams of June are too many to list, but some of the tour’s most magical moments included Detroit’s “A Disease Supreme -> Fluffhead -> Bowie,” Charlotte’s “Rock and Roll -> Ghost” and “Reba,” Blossom’s “Sneakin’ Sally,” Bethel’s “Waves,” “Halley’s Comet” and “Bathtub Gin,” Mansfield’s “Rock and Roll,” Cincinnati’s “Tweezer” and “YEM,” Portsmouth’s “Slave” and “Sand,” Darien’s mash-up of “Golden Age” and “What’s the Use?” with “2001”and so much, much more! And this was only leg one. During 2009 and 2010, Phish’s playing vastly improved from leg one to leg two of summer tour, but with their best playing being as good as ever, what I think we can look forward to is greater consistency night in and night out.

PNC (C.LaJaunie)

The top-notch shows of this past tour were often interspersed with spottier performances whose highs still matched the best moments of the month, but whose flow or risk-taking was often compromised for safer, high-octane playing. Looking past Superball and into leg two, I think that we will see an increased consistency of excellence from Phish. This translates into fewer nights dotted with head-scratching jam abortions and fewer shows anchored by safe, rocking, straightforward playing a la Bethel night three or Merriweather night two.

This past month, the band has certainly arrived. For any naysayers who thought Phish couldn’t regain their past glory in this decade, well—eat crow. The band has IT harnessed again, and as Trey said for an upcoming Rolling Stone interview, “everything seems to be dialed in right now, the band feels loose in all the right ways.” Creating musical highs on par with any era, the band has now fully entered the next phase of their career as a creative tour de force. After watching the guys’ skills re-evolve through 2009 and 2010, their musical output of June has been incredibly rewarding for anyone who maintained faith in quartet through the rebuilding process. Firing on all cylinders like they haven’t since sometime in the ‘90s, Phish is back to sculpting nights of musical majesty laced with spectacular improvisation. Hop on the bus, folks, this summer has a long way to go. Next stop, Super Ball IX!

PNC (Chris LaJaunie)

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Equitable Exchanges

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 20th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

6.18.11 (John Crouch)

Phish punctuated their opening leg of summer with a tour-closing show at nTelos Pavilion that displayed musical dominance from beginning to end. Everything the band touched turned to gold last night, as they greeted the intimate audience with a plethora of four-part conversations in a show whose improvisational creativity and quality song selection never stopped. Finishing tour with a stellar three-night finale, the band left everyone in Portsmouth, Virginia, with a night of top-level playing and outstanding exchanges in a show that flowed beautifully from start to finish.

Official Portsmouth Print (Pollock)

As the band took the stage for the final time in June, they dropped a bomb, opening with “Harpua” for the first time since the 10.20.89! It turned out that the elusive bustout was a vehicle to bring the band’s four fathers on stage for Father’s Day in the most comedic fashion. When the song reached its classic narrative between Jimmy and his father about the fate of his cat, Posternutbag, one by one, each of the band member’s fathers came onstage to narrate part of the conversation. Dr. Jack McConnell delivered the line of the night altering the climactic lyric to the deadpan “Your, goddamn cat died.” A quality start to a special evening, the familial opening continued with the third consecutive Father’s Day version of “Brother,” each time featuring the band member’s kids jumping in a tub with each other while the band played—and laughed—behind them.

But when the family fun concluded, the band got musically serious very quickly with a shredding exploration of “Down With Disease.” Taking the jam for its only first-set ride of tour, the band pushed the song into an adrenalized jam that included creative tangents within. Setting the tone of full-band interplay early on in the night with “Disease, the next no-brainer highlight of the set came a couple songs later in “Timber Ho.” A song that has popped off the stage each time the band has played it this summer, did so once again in one of its most creative outings of tour. Trey laid back allowing Mike and Page direct the onset of the jam, joining in later with refined and meticulous phrasing. Transforming the piece into a completely equitable conversation—something that took place all night long—the band was clearly listening to each other and responding efficiently, gathering musical momentum by the moment.

6.18.11 (John Crouch)

Following the danceable duo of “Wedge” and a particularly gooey “Moma Dance,” Phish debuted Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”—a song that graced so many of my high school mix tapes—in honor of The E Street Band’s saxophonist, Clarence Clemmons, who passed away the previous day. Though admittedly a bit shaky on the song, Trey told the audience they had quickly learned it out of love—and to be honest—I thought it was an amazing and emotional moment for Trey and so many of us that grew up listening to the Big Man’s passionate playing. Closing the set with “Tube,” “Alaska,” and “David Bowie,” the standout of the three emerged in the patient, four-minded exchange of the set-closer. Page stood out within this “Bowie” while helping steer course of the jam—a trend of recent days as his playing has been at the top of his game. The band’s attentiveness was again on display as they echoed, responded to, and danced around each other’s ideas with marksman-like precision. Typical of the many improvisational passages throughout the show, the band collaborated in the truest sense of the word during “Bowie,” sculpting one of several equitable excursions.

6.18.11 (J.Crouch)

And this type of jamming picked right back up after setbreak as Phish dropped into their third “Crosseyed” of June. This time, however, once the band annihilated the composed grooves of the song like a one-brained assassin, they pushed right beyond them, forging original territory that moved from aggressive playing into a darker experiment. Lingering in the jam’s sonic fallout, the band floated through space into “Walls of the Cave.” In centering the Round Room song in the second set for the first time since the post-hiatus era, Phish not added spice to their setlist, they also infused its jam with creativity for the first time in ages. Without leaving the “Silent Trees” textures, Trey played diverse leads over the driving rhythmic pocket as Page complimented him quite well on piano for the duration. A more honest conversation than the song’s usual guitar wankery, the new-era Phish breathed new life into the post-hiatus song that had turned quite dull by the time 2004 rolled around (with some obvious and notable exceptions.) “Walls” worked great in the second slot last night, and instead of returning to the song’s final lyrical reprise, the band took migrated into an ambient outro that bled beautifully into “Slave.”

Phish’s intimate communication was expressed powerfully in two wholly-divergent second set masterpieces—“Slave” and “Sand.” Touching on the divine and the demonic, though these highlights diverted in feel, they were united by their sublime and selfless jamming. The “Slave” carried a slower tempo than usual, providing each band member plenty of space to articulate his thoughts. What resulted is one of the most patient, emotional and soul-drenched versions of the song that we’ve heard in quite some time. Mike, Page, and Trey led the jam, collectively, and Fishman framed the musical portrait of catharsis. Then, following a “Fluffhead” that worked perfectly well within the set, and featured a gargantuan guitar peak, the band unveiled “Sand”—the show-stopping jam of the night.

6.18.11 (J.Crouch)

If Phish grooves get you off, sit back, crank this and bask in the bliss of this musical crack. Having featured several standout versions of “Sand” this leg, the band punctuated tour with—easily—the song’s most impressive outing of summer. Going utterly ballistic, Phish hopped into a vat of boiling rhythms and came out with one of the most infectious dance sessions of this era. Connecting like they were marionettes controlled by a universal puppeteer, the band played a version that—on playback—resembles a filthy and disgusting joke. Locking into original and cooperative patterns, the guys never hesitated in crafting one of the swankiest joyrides of the season. Trey turned towards distinctly jazzier leads before stepping outside the box with his offerings within the context of a completely original conversation. The band was grooving and they were grooving hard—so much so, that upon the ending of this  next-level jam, the band paused and broke back into the groove they had just left in a move that ignited the crowd into a frenzy.

6.18.11 (J.Crouch)

Slipping into a “Sneakin’ Sally” that moved into “Light” without much of a post-vocal jam, the band kept when the band reached the fork in the road in “Light,” they more than made up for it. Trey veered from his atonal soloing for a more delicate whole-band textures. Allowing their modern-era epic to breathe far more than most versions of summer, last night, the band dropped into a wholly segment of wholly surreal jamming out of “Light.”

The show—and tour—ended on the upbeat trifecta of a delicate “Number Line,” a smoking “Suzy Greenberg” set-closer, and a rocking “Julius” encore. Using these happier songs to resolve a largely ominous set, Phish balanced the tone of their improv well throughout set, and show. Catching fire once again following Alpharetta’s largely contained, webcasted affairs, Phish finished up a spectacular opening leg with three strong shows in a row—a great sign of things to come as we take a quick ten-day break before meeting up again at Watkins Glen. If this summer is going to progress from leg one to leg two in the way Summer of ’09 and ’10 did, boy, are we off to a spectacular start!

I: Harpua, Brother, Down with Disease, Back on the Train, Funky Bitch, Timber, The Wedge, The Moma Dance, Thunder Road*, Tube, Alaska, David Bowie

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Walls of the Cave > Slave to the Traffic Light, Fluffhead, Sand, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley > Light > Backwards Down the Number Line, Suzy Greenberg

E: Julius

*debut, Bruce Springsteen, dedicated to Clarence Clemmons

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(I’m taking a couple days off to get back to my family. I’ll be back…)

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No Flow, But Good to Go

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 19th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

6.18.11 - Raleigh, NC (John Crouch)

On Saturday night in Raleigh, Phish pieced together a show that didn’t necessarily add up to more than the sum of its parts—but many of its parts were quite impressive. Highlighted by an eerie and abstract exploration of “Split Open and Melt,” the second set was broken up by random songs placed in between each mini-jam sequence, a format that eliminated any overall flow to the frame. But in a set that featured ups and downs and was generally all over the place, the band played still found plenty of time for engaging improvisation.

Official Raleigh Print (J.Helton)

Opening the second half of the show with a short but sweet “Twist,” Phish got into some serious interplay as Trey ripped off a series of staccato leads amidst a jam that felt like it had the makings of something more. But instead of pushing into the unknown, the band wrapped up the tight set-opener and followed with “Rift”—so much for flow. And as the third song of the set, Trey chose an incredibly mellow route, dusting off “Prince Caspian” for the first time since tour’s opening night in Bethel. But instead of rocking out the anthemic piece, Trey laid back, using delicate licks rather than a crushing solo. As a result, the band sailed into a cerebral version that melted—unfinished—into spacious and ambient improv that found its way to near silence before merging with “Esther.” The combinations of songs was successful and seamless, if not a bit mellow for its second-set placement. When “Esther” concluded, Trey began to adjust a second microphone, leading many fans to believe a guest appearance was imminent. But in the surprise of the evening, the band tore into Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing” for the first time since 12.28.1998. Running an effect through the second mic to alter his voice to a high-pitched squeal like Perry Farrell’s, Trey added a new element to the cover since we’d last seen it nearly 300 shows ago. Though an exciting bustout, the song seemed completely out of place following “Esther” in the middle of the second set—another bizarre speedbump in its contour.

6.18.11 (J. Crouch)

The second jam sequence of the half came next in “Piper > My Friend, My Friend.” Wasting no time getting creative with “Piper,” the band launched into a dynamic conversation within the piece’s breakneck textures, and when the band broke things down, the music became increasingly interesting. Mike, Trey and Page joined forces in a whole-band effort that featured equitable contributions, all the while remaining glued to the beat science of Jon Fishman. Responding to each other creatively and with negligible reaction time, “Piper” took on an adventurous trajectory, though when the band seemed to be delving deeper, Trey had other ideas as he started up”My Friend.” One random second-set call was followed by another with a generic run through of “Kill Devil Falls.” By this point, the second half had lost any sense of cohesion. But in a set-saving decision, the band kicked into “Split.”

Focusing their exploratory spirit on a song already known for reaching crazy places, last night, Phish gradually built “Split” into a haunting and hypnotizing show-highlight. Taking the jam far off the deep end, the band forged through several stages of distinctly slow, dissonant and abstract playing en route to a menacing trip through the dark side. Displaying all sorts of patience in this jam, Trey blended into a four-part, psychedelic symphony that engulfed the pavilion with its ever-deepening textures. While the band had no problem getting into this gorgeous, musical lunacy, they did have a bit of trouble getting out. They had brought the jam to such an abstract plane—at one point, with no band members playing at all over a drone soundscape—that they couldn’t quite find their way back from the netherworld into the “Split’s” final build. Getting a bit lost in this attempt, the guys finally bailed on the ending of the song, popping weakly into its final riffs. But anytime the band can’t find their way back to earth because they’ve traveled so far into the cosmos, that’s one kind blemish I can handle every single time.

6.18.11 (John Crouch)

As if Trey put his internal iPod on shuffle last night, the show ended innocuously with “Golgi” and “First Tube” before an encore of “Good Times, Bad Times brought things home. The first set, however, did carry a bit more cohesion. Opening up with two bustouts—presumably from signs—in “Cars, Trucks, Buses” and Frank Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” (a song Trey just couldn’t handle) things got off an running in a hurry. The other highlight of the set came in a “Halley’s Comet” jam that was almost let loose. In a strange case of second guessing himself, Trey allowed the band to jam forth from the song’s normal break, getting into some infectious rhythms in a hurry. But before the piece got a chance to get anywhere significant—a jam that Trey, himself, allowed to blossom—Big Red performed a back-alley abortion on the the growing piece, inexplicably starting “46 Days” with his band fully immersed in a groove. We can ask “Why?” until the cows come home, but sometimes there are just no answers. A smoking, old-school sounding “Antelope” closed the opening set with a quick-paced exchange that underlined the band’s current connectedness.

6.18.11 (J.Crouch)

Though I may never listen to this show from start to finish, I’ll certainly revisit the highlights, as Phish had it going last night—though they displayed it in spurts. While far from a face-melting epic, there was still plenty of standout music within Phish’s penultimate show of June to keep everyone happy. An odd show—no doubt—the unexpected, however, comes in many forms, and last night the second set was anything but predictable. But with an arsenal of heavy artillery armed and ready for tonight, something tells me we’ll walk away from nTelos Pavilion slightly more wide-eyed than Walnut Creek. As I gaze across the water towards the locale of the intimate, 7,000-person tour-closer, a blowout lingers in the air. See you on the flip side.

I: Cars Trucks Buses, Peaches en Regalia, AC/DC Bag, Guyute, Possum, Halley’s Comet > 46 Days, The Divided Sky, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Run Like an Antelope

II: Twist, Rift, Prince Caspian > Esther, Been Caught Stealing, Piper > My Friend, My Friend, Kill Devil Falls, Split Open and Melt, Golgi Apparatus, First Tube

E: Good Times Bad Times

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And It Was Alright…

Posted in Uncategorized with the on June 18th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

5.28.11 (Chris Klein)

And then on Friday, Phish became Phish again. Combining all the elements that make them the greatest band on the planet, the guys threw down a tour-defining performance that left their week of quasi-mediocrity as a perplexing stumble in the summer of 2011. Somehow, last night Trey was able to let go and join in the collective glory that emerges when a four-minded patience allows greatness to develop. No jams were cut off, they were, instead, played with utmost creativity through their natural endings. And in Charlotte, instead of tearing through a setlist, Trey’s patience allowed the music—and show—to breathe and his band to explore, and lo and behold, one of the most cohesive, complete and brilliant shows of this era resulted.

Official Charlotte Print (Methane)

Sculpting a stratospheric journey by combining “Rock and and Roll” and “Ghost,” the band threw down enrapturing, top-shelf jamming of the likes that we haven’t seen since Detroit. To describe this profound excursion with metaphors and imagery would be to cheapen its absolutely impeccable nature. This is one of those nights I’m gonna let the music do the talking; grab a set of headphones and kick back. Embarking on “Rock and Roll’s” jam with an exploratory intent, the band departed from structure early and would up in a stunning four-piece conversation in which Trey was clearly listening and responding to Mike and Page, as the three engaged in a subconscious exchange—with Fishman—that blossomed into pure and unadulterated Phish. Moving through several stages of jamming, the band continued to delve deeper into the source, taking the audience to that magical place that we quest for with so much of our hearts and souls. And when the enchanting ride finally settled into an ambient plane, as if scripted, the band moved into the second “Ghost” of tour.

6.12.11 (B.Ferguson)

Monumental. Bliss. Perfection. Any of these words could be used to describe the music contained within last night’s “Ghost.” Just listen. Honestly. Just listen. This is the type of cathartic mastery that drove us down this crazy road to begin with. Making the hallowed MSG version look rather tame, last night brought the song to a whole ‘nother level in a defining performance of this era. The refined communication on display throughout was staggering, and the band sculpted a jam, that when combined with “Rock and Roll,” formed an mind-bending odyssey to be reckoned with. Just listen.

But that wasn’t all the band hand to offer after setbreak. Gone were the speedbumps that have plagued second sets of late—this frame flowed like liquid. Resolving the next-level improvisation with, “Free.” Perhaps, the move of the night came next when the band followed up “Free” with “Reba!” I’ve been talking about getting “Reba” into the second set all tour, and last night it happened in the biggest way. As tapped in as they were last night, placing “Reba” squarely in the second set was a shrewd and dreamlike decision. Focusing their passion and precision on the soulful groove, the band crafted a pristine version that felt like everyone was surfing the same wave through the universe; pure magic. Within the context of the-whole band conversation, Trey unleashed a series of leads that pulled at one’s heart while meticulously directing a phenomenal exchange. Things felt real again. Very real.

6.12.11 (B.Ferguson)

And then, as the band brought the stellar piece to a crescendo, they didn’t move into the song’s whistling ending, they moved into “Icculus.” It felt as though the band’s virtuosic playing had awakened the god of Gamehendge, as a spiritual quality laced the band’s improv all night long. While Trey—in a comically intense rant—reminded his audience to “Read the fucking book!” it felt as though he was reminding himself of what this is all about while still reeling from the extraordinary ride. In a powerful moment that was, simultaneously, fused with comedy, the band had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand, and the spirit of Phishiness was alive again.

Continuing this Phishy trend, out came Fishman for his first spotlight schtick of this tour— and it all flowed perfectly. Performing Syd Barret’s “Bike,” everyone was in the moment and having a blast—both onstage and in the crowd. It was just one of those special nights. Following Fish’s interlude with an engaging and intricate “Chalk Dust,” anything the band touched turned to gold at this point. And there was only one way finalize this evening: “You Enjoy Myself.” Taken off the shelf for only the third time this summer, the band punctuated the show with the seminal classic. It was just one of those nights.

6.5.11 (M.Stein)

And the show had something going from the get go. Instead of plucking a sign for a bustout to start the first set, Trey pulled up a piece of cardboard that read “Mike’s House.” And just like that, Phish launched into a show-opening “Mike’s Groove,” starting the night on the right foot. After a string of old-school singles, the band dusted off the Gamehendge pairing “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” for the first time in almost a year, navigating the old-school composition with precision. A swanky “Wolfman’s” that carried a serious collaborative groove provided another first set sign pointing towards a heavy-handed second half.

Combining to-die-for jamming, Gamehendge lore, tight compositions, and a stellar song selection, Phish came out and destroyed Charlotte last night, a refreshing breakout that needed to happen. With a peak-experience through and through, the band kick-started their final three shows of June in the biggest way possible, thank the Lord. And thank you, Phish, from the bottom of my heart.

I: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bouncing Around the Room, NICU, Sample in a Jar, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Axilla, Wolfman’s Brother, Scent of a Mule, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Backwards Down the Number Line, Rock and Roll > Ghost > Free, Reba > Icculus, Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up, Chalk Dust Torture, You Enjoy Myself

E: Wilson > Loving Cup

Energy Without An Edge

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 16th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

6.12.11 (G.Lucas)

Torrential weather has historically been a catalyst for spectacular Phish shows. As recently as Deer Creek ’09, the band has responded to nature’s fury with that of their own, crafting epic sets within stormy contexts. One can look through Phish history for many examples of this confluence of aggressive weather and monumental music, so when a storm of biblical proportions interrupted a relatively mellow opening set on Wednesday night in Alpharetta, everyone in the venue could only imagine what the band would throw down when they returned. One could feel the collective energy brewing in the pavilion as water flooded the venue—a massive set lurked just around the corner. When the lights suddenly went dark after a rain delay of almost an hour, everyone assumed their places in the overcrowded pavilion.

Alpharetta Official Print (Taylor)

But when all was said and done, amidst furious thunder and lightening, Phish tore through a high-energy set that was comprised of tame versions of many crowd favorites. The choice setlist (albeit reliant on the band’s small summer rotation) provided a high-powered dance party, but it felt like the band’s goal was to power through a number of anthems rather than explore any improvisational realms. Although last night was a phenomenal experience and a thrill to be a part of, upon listening back to its musical contents, there really isn’t much substance. Maybe Phish has run out of energy for this run? Maybe they were trying to showcase several songs for their Internet audience? Regardless of the reason, Phish came up a quite a bit short on transcendent music last night.

Energy-based shows were a thing of 2009, a crutch for a band whose creativity had yet to return in full. But what place energy-based shows have in Summer 2011 is beyond me. The band totally shredded each and every piece they played, and if high-quality and tight, song-based playing is what you’re looking for, this show definitely delivered in droves. But if it’s a step into the unknown that you quest after, you might as well leave this one alone, because the band played it incredibly safe, taking absolutely zero risks. Let’s take a quick glance at the second set.

6.11.11 B.Ferguson

Phish returned to stage as lightning bolts still surrounded the venue, picking up “Mound” exactly where they were forced to cut it off due to the weather. And when they completed “Mound” and dropped into the thunderous opening of “Tweezer,” the crowd erupted for the impending trek. Building a fierce guitar-led jam from the get-go, Trey steered the initial course of this voyage—in full. When the guitar peak settled, it seemed that it was time for the band to get serious—and three of four band members agreed. But the only one that matters yanked the carpet out from under the jam, as Trey—inexplicably and like a scared little boy running from oncoming psychedelia—began to play “Julius.” In a move that felt like a clear grasp for safety, Trey— in the past week—has re-developed an aversion to pushing the envelope. Part and parcel of the first segment of summer was daring risk-taking and wide-open jamming. But as we wind down to the final three shows of June, our improvisational heroes have fizzled into quasi-nostalgic rock stars, content on playing straightforward, ripping shows. What the hell happened?

6.11.11 (G.Lucas)

To be fair, “Julius” shied from shredding guitar leads in favor of a more laid-back conversation between all band members. But Phish’s song rotation has shrunk to such a minute number of selections this tour, it was hard to get all that excited about to hear “Julius” again, let alone in such a prominent slot and cutting off “Tweezer.” Strong mid-set versions of “Slave” and “Bowie” brought the peak of a smoking second half that would find some additional points of interest in “Jibboo” and “Harry Hood.” But when comparing the bravado of this band to the creative maestros of Bethel and the Midwest, it’s like apples and oranges.

Though I had a blast at the rain-soaked dance party last night, the second set could have been so much more significant. And in the face of such an absurd scenario—one where we lost about 30-45 minutes of Phish time—the band should have been looking to pack as much of a musical punch into their final frame as possible. But they settled for a great setlist played with adrenaline and purpose, as their pioneering intent so prevalent only weeks ago has faded considerably. One would hope to see some musical fireworks over the next three shows, as the past week of tour has represented a legitimate downturn from its promising inception. With the first set versions of “Runaway Jim” and “Timber Ho” providing, perhaps, the two most accomplished jams of the night, hopefully Phish can craft a couple second sets of memory to bring home with us before Superball.

Pretty please?… With sugar on top?

I: Paul and Silas, Back on the Train, Foam, Water in the Sky, Runaway Jim, Army of One, Roses Are Free, Timber, Mound*

II: Mound**, Tweezer > Julius, Slave to the Traffic Light, David Bowie, Suzy Greenberg, Gotta Jibboo, Harry Hood, Character Zero, The Birdwatcher^ > Kung^

E: Funky Bitch, Tweezer Reprise

*beginning, **end, ^a capella

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Online In Atlanta

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 15th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Alpharetta - 6.14.11 (G. Lucas - webcast capture)

With a webcasted audience tuned in from all over the country and beyond, Phish opened their Alpharetta stand with a solid two-set performance that carried the contour of a bell curve. The peak of the Tuesday night’s show came at the end of set one and the beginning of set two, and contained a legitimate portion of engaging improvisation. Seldom stepping onto the musical precipice, however, the band has yet to consistently demonstrate the inspiration and risk-taking that graced the early stages of tour. But carrying a definite momentum through most last night’s show, Phish lined a double into the gap on Tuesday with that elusive home run still waiting in the wings.

Alpharetta Official Print (Taylor)

Alpharetta Official Print (Taylor)

In response to an uber-enthusiastic fan’s call for “Dinner and a Movie” from the front of the 100 section, Trey decided to kick off the show with the rare and ominous instrumental. Continuing the climb up the bell curve with succinct versions of “Moma,” “Possum,” and “Cities” the band followed up with a rare first-set “Fluffhead.” At this point in the show, we had two second-set-killers out of the way in “Possum” and “Fluffhead”—two songs that worked just fine in the opening half. “Ocelot,” “Ginseng” and “Kill Devil Falls” all brought a Southern vibe to the Peach State’s stand. But when Phish dropped into “Kill Devil’s” jam, someone seemingly stoked a fire under their assess, as the passion behind their playing picked up considerably.

As the band tore into the high-speed conversation, the show dropped its webcast / hit-single feel for some earnest jamming. And after getting their toes wet with the smoking blues-rock of “Kill Devil Falls,” Phish emerged with the opening frame’s highlight combo of in “Bathtub Gin” and “Light Up Or Me Alone.” “Gin” almost immediately built into danceable rhythms as Trey tickled the jam’s musical textures with subtle and melodic riffs. Building into a whole-band jam around the song’s theme, Mike threw out some prominent bass lines throughout—a pattern that would continue throughout the evening. But when the time came to bring it to the top Trey’s bravado took over as the crushed the cathartic peak . The overwhelming energy contained in “Gin” spilled right into the bustout of “Light Up or Leave Me Alone.”

6.14.11 (G. Lucas capture)

When Phish plays the Traffic cover, one of the best parts is the memory of Big Cypress’s opening set that floods one’s mind. But on this night, the band’s powerful jam out of the song brought everyone right into the here and now. Diving into a collaborative groove, Page hammered out organ patterns as the band chugged along with him at a driving pace. Mike and Page led the majority of this jaunt as Trey oozed his way in with refined leads that blended into the fabric without obtrusion. Building momentum alongside the band, Trey’s playing gradually became more prominent until his lead lines took center stage and jumped down the throat of the audience. Fully locked and loaded within this funk-rock context, the band brought the house down with relentless interplay that led to a dizzying climax. Punctuating the opening frame with “Cavern,” Phish had caught fire in the set’s final segment—a fire that would burn strongly into set two.

6.14.11 R.Sadowski)

Firing off another short-stacked “Carini” to launch the second half, last fall’s 180-degree transformation of the song into a jam vehicle seems to have been only a tour-long phenomenon. Instead of using the piece to reach into the stratosphere—a possibility that exists every time it drops—the band used “Carini” to script a dark opening tone. But as the band began to forge a path of exploration, Trey came in with “Sand’s” opening licks for no apparent reason. With Mike and Page pushing forward, the band would come a virtual stop before igniting the first, second-set “Sand” of 2011. Giving the dark groove the full treatment under the main event’s spotlight, Phish cooperated to build a driving excursion in jazz-rooted, psychedelic fusion. Remaining a four-part conversation, “Sand” is one transformation from last fall that has stuck with the band this summer. As Trey layered staccato licks over Mike’s heavy bass leads, the band jumped right into the fray in this segment. The interplay of the two guitarists stood out as the defining facet of this venomous version—one of the show’s certain highlights. And as the sonic residue of the song settled, the band morphed the sound into the intro of “Down With Disease.”

A song that can always be relied upon for an open-ended journey these days, “Disease” provided exactly that last night in Alpharetta. Trey fired inspired leads over the band’s rock and roll, as everyone was firmly entrenched on the same page careening through the song’s high-speed chase. Breaking down the ferocious music on a dime, Phish, quickly, got far away from the jam’s musical genesis. Building into an eerie segment of music that became increasingly spacier by the moment, Phish pushed into experimental realms while Fish kept things anchored with an abstract and intricate drumbeat. Moving through some far-reaching and cohesive exploration, the band—at times—sounded like they were flirting with “Ghost,” but as they reached an effects-drenched crossroads, Fishman introduced the opening beats of “Maze.” The Rift classic works so well as a landing point for exploratory jamming, because there is never a lapse in energy or musical force in the show. And on this night, the band showcased their airtight playing in a version whose intensity and interplay transcended that of most recent versions. And it was after a fun and terrorizing joyride in “Maze,” that the second set hit a wall and began to slide down the back of the night’s bell curve.

6.14.11 (G. Lucas capture)

“Meatstick” is symbolic of one era of Phish’s career—1999 and 2000. And though its fun to revisit the millennial anthem now and again, the middle of the second set is a brutal place to do it. Derailing any show with its quasi-comedic dance and loafing groove that is always going nowhere, the song did exactly that last night, sucking the tenacious energy out of the set and leaving a disjointed final portion of the show. Another short but sweet “2001” ignited the home stretch, which was oddly followed by “Bug” and “A Day In a Life” before the band closed with “Antelope.”

Though throwing down a solid show last night, the band carried just enough passionate playing and risk-taking to satiate all parts of their audience. But when we come back later tonight, perhaps Phish can show-off to their online—and in-person—audience with a whole set based in cohesive jamming. C’mon guys…I dare you…

I: Dinner and a Movie, The Moma Dance, Possum, Cities, Fluffhead, Ocelot, Ginseng Sullivan, Kill Devil Falls, Bathtub Gin, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Cavern

II: Carini > Sand > Down with Disease > Maze, Meatstick, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Bug > A Day in the Life, Run Like an Antelope

E: Quinn the Eskimo

Tags: ,

Flashbacks: Stage Shots

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on June 13th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

6.12.11 - Merriweather (Moshe Cohen)

***

6.12.2011 - (Erik Howard)

***

6.12.11 (Graham Lucas)

***

6.12.11 (Moshe Cohen)

***

6.12.2011 (Graham Lucas)

*****

Book Contest #1 Results:

Sorry for the delay in posting these, but without further ado, I’d like to congratulate Brandon Benton for blowing away the field with his picks to win a free, signed copy of my forthcoming book. Thank you to the 80 contestants in contest #1, and best of luck to the 160 contestants in contest #2! The top finishers are below (as entered):

1. Brandon Benton (21 pts)

2. Bill Aimonetti, Proj Mersch (14 pts)

3. Dan Goodkind, Jeff Kay, Matt, Mike A (13 pts)

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